Baltimore Orioles: Why the National League Should Adapt the DH
In Major League Baseball, there have been surrounding questions about whether to implement a league-wide designated hitter. If the DH is universally adopted, could it help teams like the Baltimore Orioles?
The Baltimore Orioles, like all of the 15 American League Teams, have a batting position every game that they can put to their offensive advantage. And while many say pitching wins games, teams can’t win without scoring runs.
But in the NL, that batting spot belongs to the pitcher. Unless the manager creative uses the double switch and uses a true hitter, there is an obvious disadvantage with a pitcher taking a crucial spot in a nine-man lineup.
Consider some of the DHs that the Orioles have used over the years. Would the Orioles have won the 2014 ALDS without Nelson Cruz and his five RBI? Then, there’s Harold Baines. He might be in the Hall of Fame as a White Sox player, but he did hit .301/.379/.502 as DH with the Birds.
Making the DH Universal
There is no question that MLB must add the designated hitter position after decades of its absence. Pitchers in today’s game seem to take an approach simply to try and make contact and most of the time, it doesn’t happen.
The injury risk is too high for a position designed to be on the mound, not in the box. Why would you send someone to the plate who hasn’t trained for that skill? In college, minors and major leagues the DH is inserted into the lineup.
Pitchers Don’t Train to Hit
If a pitcher is drafted to the NL, there’s a good chance that they haven’t picked up a bat since high school. Amateur ball players in high school and beyond train in one, maybe two positions. People who support pitchers hitting want to see someone who obviously lacks a key skill going against the best in the world.
Imagine an Orioles lineup with John Means or Alex Cobb manning the nine spot. I don’t think many O’s pitchers would hover over a .100 average. It is common for an AL pitcher to be traded to the NL, but then what? For many years these pitchers haven’t even thought about picking up the wood and taking hacks.
Pitchers Who Rake?
In order to get a solid sample, look at the pitchers with the most at-bats last season. The top four pitchers all came from the NL East and are big names.
Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard all had over 64 plate appearances each. Although they are flamethrowers on the mound, their total averages came out to .153.
Take those plate appearances and have a player who can actually produce with the bat. They say in baseball, a .300 average means you’re doing quite well. Over the past few years, the average batting average has hovered around .250.
Why would the MLB want a drop-in offense? You can see that pitchers perform at half the rate as a consistent MLB hitter.
Bunts and Strikeouts
MLB has an overwhelming challenge on their hands right now. With other sports like American football or basketball, sports with constant action and excitement, baseball has to get viewers back into the game.
Strikeouts in the game have been skyrocketing consecutively over almost every season played. With an NL pitcher going up to the plate, it’s over before the first pitch is thrown. They either bunt, strikeout or are only in for a double switch. A universal DH will take away from the robbery of a number nine hitter.
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The strikeout rate has been higher in the National League since 1973, the year the AL started to use the DH. However, the strikeout percentage isn’t due to the NL’s actual hitters. Hitters from both leagues tend to have roughly the same strikeout rate.
Don’t Bunt; Hit Dingers
The spike in K’s comes from the guys who are supposed to throw the ball, not hit it. People who want pitchers to continue to dig in the box have an outdated point of view. In no other sport do two conferences in the same league have differing rules. To add on, when interleague play occurs the inconsistency in the lineup creates an advantage or disadvantage for either conference. The AL team loses a key spot in their lineup.
Imagine a game with more home runs and more contact in general from a position player in the nine spot. Instead of weak contact or a strikeout by the pitcher, a manager could be more strategic in the nine-hole. For example, the speedy Jose Iglesias filled the nine hole often filled the nine hole when he played in Detroit. A career .273 hitter is definitely at an advantage over a guy who can barely hit .100.
Who wouldn’t want more excitement and less strikeouts? I hope to see Rob Manfred make the switch to the universal designated hitter within the next few years. It’s better for the game and more suitable for pitchers to focus on their one job, pitching.